Lobbyists hired to oppose AOA/ADA-backed DOC Access Act

October 13, 2015
Vision plans are working overtime in the nation’s capital to blunt the AOA-backed DOC Access Act.

"The DOC Access Act ensures doctors and patients, not insurers, are again at the center of important health care decisions."

While AOA doctors and students have been working hard to build support for AOA-backed legislation that would address anti-patient and anti-competitive vision plan abuses, the plans are responding with a new lobbying effort targeting the DOC Access Act.

According to public lobbying disclosures, the national association representing vision plans has hired a high-profile Washington, D.C., lobbyist to help the industry fight H.R. 3323 and is now actively lobbying against the DOC Access Act on Capitol Hill. A vision plan association representative has said that the industry is opposing H.R. 3323 because they believe that the effort would only "... reduce quality, value ... and increase administrative costs..."

Introduced by Reps. Buddy Carter (R-Georgia) and Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), H.R. 3323—the Dental and Optometric Care Access Act—otherwise known as the DOC Access Act—is pro-access, pro-patient and pro-competition legislation aimed at helping to level the playing field for patients and their doctors by targeting some of the most offensive vision plan practices.

Endorsed jointly by the AOA and the American Dental Association, the DOC Access Act would, among other safeguards, prohibit:

  • Forcing discounts on noncovered services and materials
  • Forcing doctors to participate in a vision or dental plan as a condition for participation in a medical plan
  • Restricting doctors' choice of lab

"The DOC Access Act—which the AOA is proud to support—represents a national counterattack on abusive policies of health and vision plans and was written to ensure that doctors and patients, not insurance and plan executives, are again at the center of important, personal and personalized health care decisions," says AOA President Steven A. Loomis, O.D. "Knowing that vision plan representatives are now devoting a significant amount of time, money and energy to fighting this key AOA-backed legislation, it is now more important than ever that a growing number of AOA doctors and students commit today to fighting back and helping us build support on Capitol Hill for H.R. 3323."

The DOC Access Act also features a hard-hitting, doctor-empowering enforcement provision. The bill includes a private right of action that would enable doctors to directly file suit against a plan in violation. Offending plans would face steep fines for each day—a first-of-its-kind protection under the federal law. The private right of action means that doctors could take matters into their own hands rather than being forced to wait for officials to step-in on their behalf.

AOA has and will continue to make clear to lawmakers that, while tens of millions of Americans rely on local doctors of optometry for their comprehensive eye health and vision care needs each year, vision plan abuses are increasingly leading to higher overall costs and shrinking access to essential eye and vision care for patients. Many doctors are being forced to choose between continuing to provide care to patients and keeping their small business health care practices viable.

While 38 states have so far enacted legislation addressing vision and/or dental plan abuses, a federal effort is now needed as many plans are able to sidestep these state laws because they are instead regulated on the federal level. Although HR 3323 would not supersede state law, it would ensure that all vision plans operating in a state abide by the wishes of the duly elected representatives of the people.

Bipartisan support in Congress continues to grow for the DOC Access Act, but to ensure that the bill remains a priority in the 114 th Congress, more doctors and students need to reach out to their U.S. House members today to encourage them to co-sponsor this key eye and vision access legislation. The AOA is here to assist any and all AOA members in finding the best manner to contact their lawmaker about the DOC Access Act.

Here's how you can get involved:

  • Members can visit the AOA Legislative Action Center (member login required) and submit an electronic letter asking for support, though some offices may need a personal touch.
  • To receive one-on-one help in connecting directly with your lawmaker, contact the AOA advocacy at advocacy@aoa.org.
  • Access a new DOC Access Act fact sheet with discussion about the importance of this legislation.
  • Members also can get more involved in the federal process by investing in AOA-PAC and working to build a stronger connection with their elected officials as an AOA Keyperson.
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